Eight fabulous fantasy stories

Published on: 02 November 2023

Authors Rhianna Pratchett and Gabrielle Kent recommend some of their favourite fantasy books for readers aged 8+ starring brave, adventurous protagonists. 

As two boot-wearing, outspoken women who spent their childhoods immersed in stories of magical creatures and fantasy lands (when we weren’t out hunting for adventure or bottle-feeding lambs with our shepherdess grandmothers) we felt one with Tiffany Aching from the minute we started reading The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett. There was already a great deal of Tiffany in Rhianna who grew up on the real ‘chalk country’ (England’s rural Wiltshire), dressed in hand-knitted woollen jumpers so thick they could stand up by themselves. Or rather, there was a great deal of Rhianna woven into Tiffany by her father, Sir Terry Pratchett. 

Writing Tiffany Aching’s Guide to being a Witch together has been a joy. We got to delve deep into the adventures of our favourite Discworld characters, the witches, who impart so much wit and wisdom that we can take away into our own world. Tiffany is fearless, intelligent, sharp, and she does what needs to be done, no matter how difficult, messy or impossible the task. We have put together a list of some of our other favourite books featuring indomitable heroines and magic users as they start out on their own journeys, and try to fix the world… or at least resolve problems of their own making. Some are classics which inspired many of the fantasy books written today, others are more recent favourites by exciting new authors. All remind us of aspects of the wonderful Tiffany Aching books. 

Eight of our favourite fantasy books

Illustration from The Worst Witch by Jill MurphyIllustration from The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy

The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy 

Trainee witch Mildred Hubble and her friends have been reader favourites for almost 50 years and keep finding new audiences with tv and film adaptations. We can all empathise with poor Mildred as she immediately makes an enemy of the toughest teacher at Miss Cackles Academy for Witches and struggles with her classes while trying to avoid the attentions of snobby school bully, Ethel Hallow. 

The first in a series which follows kind-hearted teen witch Arianwyn as she ends up apprenticed to her own grandmother in Lull – a small town in the middle of nowhere. Arianwyn struggles to fit in and must conquer her own self-doubt in order to save Lull from the darkness creeping out from the forest. While faster paced, The Apprentice Witch also has a feel of the Ghibli animated masterpiece, Kiki’s Delivery Service 

Hedgewitch by Skye McKenna 

Sky McKenna and the cover of HedgewitchSky McKenna and the cover of Hedgewitch

A strong fantasy which follows runaway Cassie Morgan as she flees her boarding school to find her missing mother. Just like Tiffany, Cassie must begin training in the practical skills of witchcraft to become a guardian of the hedge border between our world and Faerie, into which children are starting to disappear. 

A rich, magical world created by both a master storyteller and a friend of Sir Terry Pratchett. Howl’s Moving Castle is a gripping adventure which has also been adapted into a stunning animation by Studio Ghibli. As if the dull work of having to carry on the family business while her sisters live more exciting lives wasn’t hard enough, Sophie is cursed by a witch and must flee her home to find a cure. When she accidentally stumbles into the dark wizard Howl's moving castle her life is suddenly filled with danger, excitement and magical new friends. 

Betty Widdershins is another courageous protagonist, desperate for adventure. On her 13th birthday she sets out from the tumbledown inn where she lives with her sharp-tongued granny only to learn that, along with her two sisters, she is cursed to remain on the miserable island of Crowstoneforever, or face certain death. Full of mystery and magic, the story soon becomes a fast-paced race against time. 

Asha and the Spirit Bird by Jasbinder Bilan 

Jasbinder Bilan and the cover of Asha and the Spirit BirdJasbinder Bilan and the cover of Asha and the Spirit Bird

Asha and the Spirit Bird follows a determined young girl who feels the spirit of her grandmother watching over her, but rather than travelling to Fairyland, Asha’s journey to save her home takes her over the Himalayas with her best friend, Jeevan, and a winged guide, facing thrills, danger and snow leopards along the way. 

A gorgeous, illustrated coming-of-age adventure set in a world full of magic and wonder. It’s wartime and Rowan is being evacuated from the city to stay with a grandfather she has never met before. When she encounters poachers in the Dark Forest, she leaps to the rescue of baby dragons and soon discovers a whole new magical side to herself and her family. Like Tiff, Rowan is curious and intelligent and doesn’t shy away from a challenge. Strong themes of nature and family run throughout her story. 

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin 

From the cover of A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

A classic fantasy that explored the concept of a school for wizards and paved the way for others to follow. Like the witches of the Discworld, the wizards of Earthsea must use their magic sparingly and responsibly or face terrible consequences – as young mage Ged learns the hard way. At 55 years old, this reads a little differently from fantasy books today, but is a wonderful book for anyone who wants to know where so many of today’s best-selling fantasy authors got their inspiration. 

Tiffany Aching's Guide to Being a Witch by Rhianna Pratchett and Gabrielle Kent, illustrated by Paul Kidby, is out now. 

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